June 25, 2024

Marwa blames porous borders for drug trafficking in West Africa

Marwa blames porous borders for drug trafficking in West Africa

Retired Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa, the Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), says the porousness of West African borders contribute to the trafficking of illicit substances in the region.

Marwa said this in an address on Tuesday in Abuja, during a media conference to commemorate the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that June 26 every year is set aside to commemorate the day and the theme for 2024 is: “Evidence is Clear, Invest in Prevention”.

Marwa was represented by Mr Chigbu Chilee, Deputy Commander of Narcotics and the Assistant Director, Drug Demand Reduction Directorate.

“In West Africa, and specifically in Nigeria, drug trafficking and abuse are often seen as complex issues with deep-rooted social and economic factors.

“For example, poverty, unemployment, and a lack of educational opportunities contribute to the vulnerability of individuals to drug trafficking and abuse.

“Furthermore, the region’s porous borders and proximity to major drug trafficking routes make it a vulnerable transit point for illicit substances.”

Marwa, however, said that the evidence was overwhelming that these activities have devastating consequences for individuals, communities, and societies.

According to him, investing in prevention is crucial to address the complex challenges of drug trafficking and abuse.

“Prevention programmes are critical to reducing demand, mitigating the social and health impacts of drug abuse, criminal justice and safety, and ultimately breaking the cycle of addiction.

“By supporting community-based initiatives, promoting education and awareness, and strengthening law enforcement efforts, we can create a safer and healthier future for all.”

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, while quoting the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, said that the prevalence of drug use in Nigeria was 14.4 per cent.

Pate, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Daju Kachollom, said that the figure was equivalent to 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, who use drugs like cannabis, amphetamines, tramadol, codeine, and cocaine.

According to him, this means that the menace of drug abuse has reached an epidemic proportion.

“Available statistics states that about 2.5 million drug related deaths occur annually in Nigeria,” he said.

The Country Representative, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Walter Mulombo, said that injecting drugs remained a significant driver of infectious diseases globally, with one in every eight people who inject drugs living with HIV (World Drug Report 2023).

Mulombo, who was represented by Dr Mya Ngo, said that Nigeria with its estimated 200,000 injecting drug users had a prevalence of HIV of 10.9 per cent.

Also, that it has a prevalence of Hepatitis B of 6.7 per cent and Hepatitis C of 5.8 per cent.

“However, in the past decade, deaths due to HIV/AIDS infection among drug users have declined; this can be attributed to the deliberate efforts to reach people who inject drugs with harm reduction services.”

He called on the Federal Government to improve access to drug use prevention, early detection and treatment services for drug use disorders and its related harms as the negative consequences were felt by the individual, their families and the society.

“These it can achieve through enhanced prevention programmes, scaling up effective treatment and harm reduction services, continuous monitoring as well as proper documentation of the drug use pattern to inform effective service delivery and policy changes.”

NAN reports that the day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to invest in prevention programmes that address the root causes of drug trafficking and abuse.